Ratings: Fox News Channel No. 1 cable network for third quarter

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Debate Shatters Fox News Ratings Record

By WHITNEY FRIEDLANDER, Variety

Thanks in part to the Republican Presidential Primary Debate and the draw of Donald Trump, Fox News Channel was the most popular primetime cable network for the third quarter -- a first for the channel.

FNC's third quarter saw double-digit increases in both primetime total viewers and the key 25-54 demo over the same time last year, averaging 1,952,000 in total viewers (up 10%) and 395,000 in the key demo (up 28%), according to Nielsen's "live plus same-day" estimates. The debate, which aired Aug. 6, brought in 24 million viewers overall. By comparison, CNN averaged 814,000 and MSNBC drew 625,000 in primetime.

See more from the first 2016 GOP debate in the gallery below:

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Ratings: Fox News Channel No. 1 cable network for third quarter
Republican presidential candidates from left, Chris Christie, Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, Scott Walker, Donald Trump, Jeb Bush, Mike Huckabee, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and John Kasich take the stage for the first Republican presidential debate at the Quicken Loans Arena Thursday, Aug. 6, 2015, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Republican presidential candidates arrive on stage for the start of the first Republican presidential primary debate on August 6, 2015 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. From left are: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie; Florida Sen. Marco Rubio; retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson; Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker; real estate magnate Donald Trump; former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush; former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee; Texas Sen. Ted Cruz; Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul; and Ohio Gov. John Kasich. AFP PHOTO / MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Real estate tycoon Donald Trump participates in the first Republican presidential primary debate on August 6, 2015 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. AFP PHOTO / MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump reacts during the first Republican presidential debate at the Quicken Loans Arena Thursday, Aug. 6, 2015, in Cleveland, as Scott Walker is seen at left.. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (L), Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (C) and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson (R) participate in the Republican presidential primary debate on August 6, 2015 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. AFP PHOTO / MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush speaks as Scott Walker and Donald Trump listen during the first Republican presidential debate at the Quicken Loans Arena Thursday, Aug. 6, 2015, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Real estate tycoon Donald Trump (R) a nd Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker participate in the Republican presidential primary debate on August 6, 2015 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. AFP PHOTO / MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - AUGUST 06: Republican presidential candidates (L-R) Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Donald Trump and Jeb Bush take the stage for the first prime-time presidential debate hosted by FOX News and Facebook at the Quicken Loans Arena August 6, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio. The top-ten GOP candidates were selected to participate in the debate based on their rank in an average of the five most recent national political polls. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Republican presidential hopeful Ted Cruz speaks during the prime time Republican presidential primary debate on August 6, 2015 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. AFP PHOTO/MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Former Florida governor Jeb Bush participates in the Republican presidential primary debate on August 6, 2015 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. AFP PHOTO / MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump speaks during the prime time Republican presidential primary debate on August 6, 2015 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. AFP PHOTO/MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christey participates in the Republican presidential primary debate on August 6, 2015 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. AFP PHOTO / MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Republican presidential hopeful Scott Walker (R) speaks with opponent Ben Carson during the prime time Republican presidential primary debate on August 6, 2015 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. AFP PHOTO/MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Ohio Gov. John Kasich participates in the Republican presidential primary debate on August 6, 2015 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. AFP PHOTO / MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - AUGUST 06: Republican presidential candidates (L-R) New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Ben Carson, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Donald Trump, Jeb Bush, Mike Huckabee, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) take the stage for the first prime-time presidential debate hosted by FOX News and Facebook at the Quicken Loans Arena August 6, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio. The top-ten GOP candidates were selected to participate in the debate based on their rank in an average of the five most recent national political polls. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Republican presidential candidates from left, Chris Christie, Marco Rubio and Ben Carson take the stage for the first Republican presidential debate at the Quicken Loans Arena Thursday, Aug. 6, 2015, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Republican presidential hopeful Rand Paul speaks during the prime time Republican presidential primary debate on August 6, 2015 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. AFP PHOTO/MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - AUGUST 06: Republican presidential candidates (L-R) Ben Carson, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Donald Trump and Jeb Bush take the stage for the first prime-time presidential debate hosted by FOX News and Facebook at the Quicken Loans Arena August 6, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio. The top-ten GOP candidates were selected to participate in the debate based on their rank in an average of the five most recent national political polls. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - AUGUST 06: Republican presidential candidates (L-R) Jeb Bush, Mike Huckabee, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) and John Kasich take the stage for the first prime-time presidential debate hosted by FOX News and Facebook at the Quicken Loans Arena August 6, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio. The top-ten GOP candidates were selected to participate in the debate based on their rank in an average of the five most recent national political polls. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Republican presidential candidate Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., speaks during the first Republican presidential debate at the Quicken Loans Arena Thursday, Aug. 6, 2015, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Real estate tycoon Donald Trump (L) and former Florida governor Jeb Bush (R) participate in the Republican presidential primary debate on August 6, 2015 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. AFP PHOTO / MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker (C), retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson (L), and real estate tycoon Donald Trump (R) participate in the Republican presidential primary debate on August 6, 2015 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. AFP PHOTO / MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - AUGUST 06: Republican presidential candidates (L-R) Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Donald Trump and Jeb Bush participate in the first prime-time presidential debate hosted by FOX News and Facebook at the Quicken Loans Arena August 6, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio. The top-ten GOP candidates were selected to participate in the debate based on their rank in an average of the five most recent national political polls. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - AUGUST 06: Republican presidential candidate New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie participates in the first prime-time presidential debate hosted by FOX News and Facebook at the Quicken Loans Arena August 6, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio. The top-ten GOP candidates were selected to participate in the debate based on their rank in an average of the five most recent national political polls. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Real estate tycoon Donald Trump (R) confers with Ohio Governor John Kasich (L) during a break in the Republican presidential primary debate on August 6, 2015 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. AFP PHOTO / MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - AUGUST 06: Audience members are reflected in a window as Republican presidential candidates (L-R) New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Ben Carson, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Donald Trump, Jeb Bush, Mike Huckabee, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) and John Kasich participate in the first prime-time presidential debate hosted by FOX News and Facebook at the Quicken Loans Arena August 6, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio. The top-ten GOP candidates were selected to participate in the debate based on their rank in an average of the five most recent national political polls. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
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Following Fox News Channel among the most-watched cable networks on a same-night basis during July, August and September were ESPN (delivering 1,707,000 total viewers), USA (1,552,000), HGTV (1,480,000) and TNT (1,418,000).

FNC also stayed on top in Nielsen's "most current" metric, which is used by most cable networks. By this measure, which blends in full-week DVR playback where available, Fox News averaged 1.99 million viewers, followed USA (1.81 million), TNT (1.80 million), Disney Channel (1.79 million) and ESPN (1.71 million).

Bill O'Reilly's FNC staple "The O'Reilly Factor" also had a momentous third quarter, delivering its highest-rated quarter in total viewers (2,870,000) since the fourth quarter of 2012. It was up the most in primetime viewers compared to any other FNC primetime program (up 7%).

Elsewhere, Fox Business Network's "Lou Dobbs Tonight" helped the network score its first-ever monthly ratings win over CNBC in total viewers (115,000 to 113,000 total viewers for September), according to Nielsen.

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